Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wild & Wonderful Wednesday: War and Friendship

The Friendship Doll
written by Kirby Larson
Delacourte Press, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-385-73745-6
Grades 3-6
Reviewed from purchased copy.
Utah Children's Beehive Book Award Nominee

BLURB: I am Miss Kanagawa. In 1927, my 57 doll-sisters and I were sent from Japan to America as Ambassadors of Friendship. Our work wasn't all peach blossoms and tea cakes. My story will take you from New York to Oregon, during the Great Depression. Though few in this tale are as fascinating as I, their stories won't be an unpleasant diversion. You will make the acquaintance of Bunny, bent on revenge; Lois, with her head in the clouds; Willie Mae, who not only awakened my heart, but broke it; and Lucy, a friend so dear, not even war could part us. I have put this tale to paper because from those 58 Friendship Dolls only 45 remain. I know that someone who chooses this book is capable of solving the mystery of the missing sisters. Perhaps that someone is you.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up this book.  This is the first book I've read by Kirby Larson and while I've heard great things about her writing and she does have a Newbery Honor book, Hattie Big Sky, to her credit, that doesn't always mean I will enjoy the book.  There are plenty of award winning books that I have not enjoyed.  But this book presents an interesting concept, similar to Hitty, Her First Hundred Years, except here, the doll in some magical way manages to communicate when she chooses to do so.  While there is the fantasy element here, the book feels very much like historical fiction.  I liked the fact that the author chose to write about a rather unknown topic, the Japanese Doll Ambassadors sent to the United States in 1927 representing the friendship between the two countries.  Ironically, in just over ten years time, the United States and Japan were at war with each other and some of the dolls were lost, others put away. 

I enjoyed meeting the girls in the story, Bunny, who so desperately wants to win more attention from her distracted parents, Lois, who must choose between pursuing a personal desire and getting a gift for her best friend, Willie Mae, who leaves home to help support her struggling family, and Lucy, who searches for a new home after she and her father lose not only her mother, but their farm.  Each girl is different, but finds her life touched by the doll.  A well-told tale of loneliness, hope, love, and persistence, I recommend this for those who enjoy strong historical fiction with a magical twist.

If you are interested in more information about these dolls, be sure to visit this website.

Eddie's War
written by Carol Fisher Saller
namelos llc, 2011
ISBN: 978-1608981090
Grades 4-8
Reviewed from ebook provided by publisher through NetGalley.

BLURBWorld War II. Hitler is threatening to take over the world. Eddie Carl thinks America should stop him-it's just plain right. But Eddie's just a kid, and the farm in Ellisville, Illinois, is a long way from the fighting. Ellisville: where the big news stories are gophers in the graveyard and the new bank alarm. But then America joins the war and Eddie's brother Thomas goes off to fly a bomber. Suddenly the war doesn't seem so far away. And Eddie faces more grown-up problems at home: A fire at the Strothers' place, and his gypsy friend accused of arson. Grampa Rob, all stubborn and mean. Grama Lucy with her secrets. And that redhead Sarah, who definitely likes him-unless maybe she hates him. Somehow Eddie's in the middle of it all, trying to figure out what's right. Let Thomas fight World War II. Eddie's war is right here in Ellisville. Eddie's War is a lyrical collection of prose vignettes linking Eddie, his family, and a small-town cast of Ellisvillians. Poignant and funny, this World War II story tells how a distant war affects the life of one boy in the Heartland.

I quite enjoyed this book.  I confess I didn't used to read much poetry, not that I hate it, but there were just other genres I liked better.  As I've grown older though, I've branched out, willing to try things I haven't read before.  I've been lucky so far, in that, the verse novels I've read have been especially good ones.  This book joins that list.  I think one of the things I enjoyed the most was the way Saller put her words together.  Each line created a picture in my mind as I read, each additional line simply added to the picture created by the very first line of each poem.  Each poem tells a story in its own right while at the same time, each poem added to my understanding of Eddie and his friends and family.

I greatly admire those writers who can so fully create characters that are easy to relate to and that I care about from page one.  Writers who can do this with a minimum of words and in what could be a limiting format amaze me.  Saller definitely goes on that list for me.  She does a fantastic job of creating setting and plot.  I enjoyed seeing Eddie grow up, the mishaps and excitement of youth, and the confusion that often accompanies growing up and realizing that life in many cases is not black and white, but gray.  Thanks, Ms. Saller for allowing me the privilege of watching Eddie grow up. Highly recommended.

NOTE: There is some swearing and reference to spousal abuse in the book, so it's more appropriate for upper middle grade students.


  1. I looked up the dolls online because I was so curious. It added a slight layer of creepiness for me, because I think dolls are creepy! Interesting to look at:

  2. They are definitely interesting to look at. One of the things that I found interesting is their size. Thanks for referring me to the website. I added it to my post.

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